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Archive for November 21, 2016

GIFT OF THE DAY: Gingerbread Scone Mix

November 21st is National Gingerbread Day…and also a reminder that it’s easy to make gingerbread scones with a $6.95 gourmet boxed mix from King Arthur Flour.

We typically give small gifts to our Thanksgiving guests, and last year it was these scone mixes (this year it’s the Gingerbread Cake and Cookie Mix).

The one-pound box makes 8 to 16 scones, depending on size. The mix is certified kosher by CRC.

They’re whole grain, too, made with white whole wheat flour.

The mix is certified kosher by CRC.

The 1-pound box of mix makes 8 to 16 scones, depending on how you portion them.

And you can use it to make gingerbread loaf, coffeecake, muffins, pancakes and shortcake.

Get yours at KingArthurFlour.com.

THE HISTORY OF GINGER

Since ancient times, the Chinese and Indians used ginger root as medicine. Ginger originated in the tropical rain forests of Southeast Asia.

By the first century, it had been introduced in the Mediterranean via India and became a popular spice in Rome. It fell from use with the fall of the Roman Empire fell, to return during medieval times as a spice for baked goods and other sweets.

Ginger has been traded throughout history longer than most other spices. It was valued for its medicinal merits: it is a popular warming spice, a digestive aid, and sometimes used to treat flatulence and colic. Today, ginger is easily accessible in local grocery stores and throughout markets, but back in the 14th century it cost about the same amount as a live sheep or piece of livestock!

Used as a medicine in medieval times, ginger became a popular holiday spice (it was too pricey to use year-round), most famously in gingerbread cookies.

In 11th century northern European countries, it was used to flavor buttermilk drinks and over the next two centuries became used in cooking meats and in ginger pastes.

During the 13th and 14th centuries, Arabs traders voyaging to Africa and Zanzibar planted the rhizomes, spreading the cultivation of the plant.

Many ginger-flavored baked goods have evolved since then, from muffins to cakes. Today, we offer this recipe from King Arthur Flour for gingerbread scones: perfect weekend breakfast and brunch fare throughout the holiday season.

THE HISTORY OF SCONES

You may have heard two different pronunciations for “scone.” The word is pronounced “skahn” in Scotland and Northern England (rhymes with gone) and “skoan” in the south of England (rhymes with own), the pronunciation adopted by the U.S. and Canada.

Which is the authentic one? They both are!

Scones are traditionally connected with Scotland, Ireland and England, but exactly who deserves the honor of invention, no one knows for sure.

Scones may well have originated in Scotland. The first known print reference, in 1513, is from a Scottish poet. However, in earlier eras, when communications were more limited, the creation of an actual item can have predated the first appearance of printed references by many years.

Centuries ago, there weren’t newspapers that reported on the minutiae of life the way modern news sources do. There were no food columns in the local papers announcing that “McTavish Bakery has created a new griddle-fried oatcake called a scone—now available at 3 Sheepshead Lane.”

In fact, there were few newspapers. Much of the population was not literate. So culinary historians rely on cookbooks and mentions in literature and other printed records. Given the perishability of paper, it is logical that many first-printed mentions of foods and other items may not have survived.

What About The Name?

One claim, probably not the best, says that scones are named for the Stone of Destiny at the Abbey Of Scone, a town upriver from Perth.

 

Gingerbread Scones

Gingerbread Scones

Gingerbread Scone Mix

Ginger Root

Scone Pan

[1] Triangle scones with icing. [2] Round scones with sparkling sugar. [3] Scones, pancakes, muffins and more come from one box of mix (all photos courtesy King Arthur Flour). [4] Ginger root (photo by Jan Schöne | SXC). [5] Long before baking pans were invented, scone dough was shaped into a round, cooked on a baking stone and cut into wedges. Modern bakers can use scone pans like this one from King Arthur Flour/

 
It is a stone bench upon which Scottish kings once sat when they were crowned. The original was long ago removed to Westminster Abbey, and a replica stone stands in its place.

Others say that the word derives from the Gaelic “sgonn” (rhymes with gone), a shapeless mass or large mouthful; the Dutch “schoonbrot,” fine white bread; and the closely-related German “sconbrot,” fine or beautiful bread. The Oxford English Dictionary favors the latter two.

What About The Shape?

Scones are related to the ancient Welsh tradition of cooking small round yeast cakes (leavened breads) on bakestones, and later on griddles. Long before the advent of baking pans, the dough—originally made with oats—was hand-shaped into a clarge round, scored into four or six wedges (triangles) and griddle-baked over an open fire.

With the advent of stovetop and oven baking, the round of dough was cut into wedges and the scones were baked individually.

Today’s scones are quick breads, similar to American biscuits. They are traditionally made with wheat flour, sugar, baking powder or baking soda, butter, milk and eggs, and baked in the oven—both in the traditional wedge form and in round, square and diamond shapes. This recipe produces a hard, dry texture.

Traditional English scones may include raisins or currants, but are often plain, relying on jam, preserves, lemon curd or honey for added flavor—perhaps with a touch of clotted cream.

Fancy scones—with dried fruit such as cranberries and dates, nuts, orange rind, chocolate morsels and other flavorings—are best enjoyed without butter and jam.

  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Turkey Napkin Fold & The History Of Napkins

Does someone in your family have a crafty streak? Let him or her do the napkin folding for Thankgsgiving dinner.

You can find different looks online, but we like this simple-but-elegant version from Martha Stewart. Here’s how to fold it.

Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to start folding. Test your skills and your napkins in advance. Linen napkins crease and fold well, cotton napkins and even large paper napkins work with many folds; polyester and permanent press napkins don’t fold.

THE HISTORY OF NAPKINS

How do you wipe your mouth and fingers during and after eating? Who doesn’t?

Yet, in the history of civilization, the napkins we know were relatively late to the table (as it were).

According to Food Reference and Melanie e Magdalena, it was a slow evolution, beginning with dough napkins! Ancient Spartans first used small lumps of dough to wipe their hands when eating. This led to using baked, sliced bread to wipe the hands.

Napkins slowly evolved into new forms. Note that they were the property of the well-to-do, not poor citizens who were left on their own. If you closely watch dining scenes in period television and film, you may be able to catch the custom of the time.

  • In Rome, the maapa, was an early tablecloth: a large cloth that covered the surface of where the individuals eating were seated. They were also used to wipe mouths and for wrapping up leftover food to take home, a custom of the host (making it the original doggy bag). Each guest supplied his own mappa.
  • In the Dark Ages (now called the Early Middle Ages), the napkin disappeared along with many other elements of Roman civilization. Hands and mouths were wiped on whatever was available: the back of the hand, the sleeve, or [back to pre-napkin times] a piece of bread.
  • During the Middle Ages, some amenities returned. Hands were wiped on tablecloths, which evolved into a three-cloth spread over the table, creating a cloth surface 4-6 feet long and 5 feet wide. You can see an example in this painting, made during between 1464 and 1467.
  • In the late Middle Ages, the communal napkin migrated from the table to the arms of a servant, and was reduced to the size of a modern bath towel. Over time, a basin with water for hand washing appeared. Throughout the meal, the individual would wash his hands, and the servant would drape the cloth over the diner’s arm or shoulder to dry wet hands throughout the meal. In France, a long cloth called a longiere was attached to the side of the tablecloth for communal use.
  • By the 16th century, the end of the Renaissance, napkins were a requirement of refined dining. A large napkin was used at the table, and a smaller napkin was used at events where people stood while eating.
  • By the 17th century, the standard napkin was approximately 35 inches wide by 45 inches long, a jumbo size that accommodated people who [still] ate with their fingers (today, dinner napkins are 24 x 24 inches). However, when the fork was accepted by royalty in the same century, the napkin fell from use among the aristocracy and neatness in dining was emphasized.
  • In the 18th century, the napkin size was reduced thanks to the widespread use of the fork by all classes of society. The napkin of the time was 30 inches by 36. Napkins followed fashion: When the fashion for men became stiffly starched ruffled collars, they were protected with napkins tied around the neck. When shirts with lace fronts came into vogue, napkins were tucked into the neck or buttonhole or were attached with a pin.
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    Turkey Napkin Fold

    Leaf Napkin Fold

    Thanksgiving Napkin Fold

    [1] A linen napkin can be creased and folded into a turkey (photo courtesy MarthaStewart.com). [2] This leaf fold napkin from Decozilla is a lot easier. [3] It’s a no-brainer to create a simple harvest theme like this (photo courtesy EcstasyCoffee.com).

  • Matching linens debut: Around 1740, manufacturers began making matching tablecloth and napkin sets.
  • Paper napkins came to the U.S. in 1887, when John Dickinson, a paper mill owner in the U.K., brought his paper napkins to a company party in the U.S.
  • Paper napkins didn’t take hold in the U.S. until 1931, when Scott Paper introduced its line.
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    Today, the napkin is made in a variety of sizes,and materials (cotton, linen, paper, polyester) and colors to meet every need:
     
    STANDARD NAPKIN SIZES

    Here are today’s standard sizes:

  • Cocktail napkin: 6″ x 6″
  • Lunch napkin: 18″ x 18″ or 20″ x 20″
  • Dinner napkin: 22″ x 22″ or 24″ x 24″
  • Buffet lap napkin: 27″ x 27″
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    GIFT OF THE DAY: Fine Teas From Steven Smith Teamaker

    Steven Smith Chamomile Tea

    Steven Smith Teas

    Steven Smith Lord Bergamot Tea

    [1] A calming herbal blend. [2] The selection of black, green, herbal and white teas will please everyone. [3] Lord Bergamot, the company’s version of Earl Gre;, powerfully blended (all photos courtesy Steven Smith Teamaker).

     

    Steven Smith of Portland, Oregon was* tea royalty in the U.S., first as co-founder of Stash, then as founder of Tazo, then as co-founder, with wife Kim, of Steven Smith Teamaker.

    Steve not only had the expertise; he had the commitment to seeking out the best, and the palate to know the best. When he started his eponymous label, his curated teas were noticeably superior to other “superior” tea brands.

    The company’s staff travels the globe to to personally select the finest small-batch teas and botanicals. They buy from longtime colleagues in the world’s best tea-growing regions in Africa, India, China and Sri Lanka.

    We drink a lot of tea, and try every brand that comes our way. There are many “artisan teas” that arrive in beautiful packaging, but trust us: Steven Smith’s teas are the best we can remember having. While the shape of the sachets (tea bags) and tins of loose tea looks familiar, the artistry inside is unique. For example:

  • Assam is big and malty black tea, blended by Smith with a bit of smoky Keemun.
  • Lord Bergamot is an “upgrade” of Earl Grey tea that combines Ceylon and Assam teas with the bergamot oil from Reggio Calabria, the toe of Italy’s boot.
  • Meadow blends chamomile flowers with hyssop, linden flowers, rooibos and rose petals—a memorable herbal infusion.
  • Rose City† Genmaicha, our favorite green tea, grassy with the light, nutty flavor of roasted rice. Here, the unique touch is a bit of rose petal and manuka honey.
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    Prices vary based on the cost of the ingredients, but an example with Lord Bergamot:

  • 2 ounce package of loose tea (for stocking stuffers), $5.50
  • 4-ounce packs $10.00
  • Loose tea tins $11.99
  • Box of 15 sachets, $11.99
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    Steven Smith Teamaker teas are all natural, gluten free, GMO free. The bags are compostable.

    Each container has a batch number that you can enter to see the provenance of the ingredients, the date it was packed, and personal notes from the tea blender.

    SPECIAL HOLIDAY BLENDS

    Celebrate the season with:

  • Silent Night herbal blend won’t keep you up at night. The caffeine free ingredients include locally-grown peppermint and sweet blackberry leaves accented with cassia (cinnamon), ginger root, sarsaparilla and sweet licorice root.
  • Morning Light black tea blend combines high-grown Ceylons, caramelized North Indian Assam, wild rosemary and a pinch of Northwest Douglas Fir needles. Oh Tannenbaum! (Check out this version, sung in English by Aretha Franklin.)
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    Each tin is $14.99.

    There are dozens of teas, each totally wonderful with or without milk and sugar, along with:

  • Gift Sets: Chocolate Peppermint Latte or Creme Caramel Latte Kit, $25.00, are just two of the gift sets that any tea lover will be happy to receive. Check out the gift sets.
  • Franklin.)
     
    Custom-label tins are available for wedding parties, in blends customized to the couple’s preferences.
     
    HEAD TO SMITHTEA.COM TO BEGIN YOUR TEA ADVENTURE.

    If you’re in the Portland area, stop by the tasting room for a cup or two.

    WANT TO EXPAND YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF TEA?

    Check out our Tea Glossary.

     
    ________________
    *Mr. Smith passed away last year.

    †Portland is called the Rose City for its proliferation of roses. The climate is ideal for growing roses outdoors: warm, dry summers, rainy and mild winters, plus heavy clay soils.

      

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